Sapateira Recheada - Portuguese Stuffed Crab

Summer is right around the corner. It's that time of year when the last thing most of us want to do is cook inside. I know I don't! Especially when Portuguese houses have this terrible habit of turning into sweltering ovens that basically bake you rather than the food!

Enter the sapateira recheada, or Portuguese style stuffed crab.

Some people love shrimp, some love lobster, but me? I absolutely adore crab. To me, crab is best in the hottest months of the year.

I was ten when I had my first real crab. When I say "real", I mean crab that wasn't stuffed in something or mixed with something else. It was the middle of August and I was in Florida visiting family. 

For those that don't know, August is the worst time of year to visit the sunshine state. Thunderstorms happen every afternoon, meaning the cool water from a pool or at the beach is completely off limits. Every time you walk outside, a wall of hot liquid air slaps you in the face. It's dreadful. And hot. And dreadfully hot.

Back to my little story...

We went to a little seafood shack and I got my first dish of crab legs and melted butter. It was amazing. The crab was sweet, the butter was, well, buttery and inside the little seafood shack there was blessed air conditioning. I think back and figure that was probably one of the best meals ever.

Crab has been synonymous with summer ever since.  It's one of the few things that I associate with the hottest time of year that's good.

Sapateira Recheada - Portuguese Stuffed Crab

I encountered this particular way of preparing crab my first year in Portugal. It sounded odd from the ingredients. I mean, why would you mix so many things into sweet beautiful crab meat that is oh so good just as it is? It boggled my mind.

Then I tried it spooned on top of little tostas (mini toasts) and realized I was wrong. Imagine sweet delicate crab meat mixed in a cool creamy sauce with hints of briny tangy flavor. It tastes like it belongs ocean side during the summer.  The best part? It requires no heat to make (unless you get live crabs of course)!

insideofcrab1 sapateira
Crab meat Crab Claws
Sapateira - Portuguese style crab

Sapateira Recheada 
Serves: 2
  • 1 frozen cooked stone crab,  thawed (look below for live crabs)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 hard boiled egg, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons capers, minced
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon beer
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • pinch salt
  • fresh parsley
Opening the crab and removing the meat.

First, grasp the claws firmly and very close to where they attach to the body. Twist and pull to remove them. Repeat with the little legs. Set aside.

To open the crab turn it over so the belly is right side up. There you'll find a triangular shaped "apron" Fit the point of a knife in the the line at the back of the crab (opposite of the mouth ) and carefully pry it up. It should pop open fairly easily. Remove this piece and look at the gills, they are feathery and can be pulled off and thrown out. You don't want them getting mixed with the good meat.

There will be some meat and roe (bright orange-red in color) still attached to the part that's been removed from the body that you can remove with your fingers or a small spoon and place in a bowl. 

Inside the body there will be some meat and more roe that can be removed from inside with a spoon and added to the bowl. Rinse out the inside of the body shell and set aside.

With a nut cracker or wooden mallet, crack the shell on the legs and knuckles to give access to the meat inside. Remove the meat with the tines of a fork and add to the bowl with the other meat.

Tip: If fork tines aren't readily available or are too difficult to use, use the little claws from the legs to help pull out hard to reach crab meat!

Preparing the filling.

Shred the crab meat in the bowl with your fingers. If there are big chunks, chop them with a knife on a cutting board and transfer them back to the bowl.

Add the shallot, egg, capers, beer, mayonnaise, mustard, and paprika to the crab bowl. Stir well with a fork and season to taste with salt and parsley leaves.

Spoon the crab mixture into the crab shell and serve with crackers or mini tostas!

Sapateira - Portuguese style crab

If using live crab... 

There are several sites that explain how to do this in a variety of  humane ways. Here's a short list:

If frozen or live crab is too expensive in your area...

You can make this with canned crab and place it in a nice bowl. It will still be good but not as good as the traditional way!


Juliana Loh @bilbaobab said...

this looks amazing!!! I read a similar recipe in the Macanese cookbook I have. Thanks for sharing the recipe and the mouthwatering photos!

Unknown said...

Thanks Juliana! I'm glad you like it. I have a Portuguese Macau cookbook too, but it's in storage at the moment or I'd check to see if it has a similar recipe :)

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.

Unknown said...

Well, hi there. Have a great day, bubye!

Nancy/SpicieFoodie said...

My mouth is watering at your gorgeous photos and scrumptious recipe. We can't get crab here so I'll have to just admire your photos. Thanks for being a part of the YBR this month:)

Carole said...

Lovely work! Would you be happy to link it in to the current Food on Friday which is all about sauces? This is the link . I do hope to see you there. There are already quite a lot of links for you to check out. Cheers

Unknown said...

Thanks Nancy! I wish I could send you some so you could taste it with more than your eyes :D

Carole said...

Rochelle (and yes I'm pronouncing it right as I think), thanks for stopping by to add your lovely dish to the "saucy" collection. I am now following your blog. Hope to see you again soon. Cheers

Anonymous said...

sounds good. And yes I remember the trip to Florida and you standing in the motel room at 11 pm eating the rest of the crab.

Unknown said...

Hah! Yeah. I think If I had 'em again I'd do the same thing, Mom :D

Rumana Rawat said...

Wow!! That is mouth watering and so pleasing to my eyes...

Unknown said...

Thank you Rumana!

Brazilian Portuguese For Life said...

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